Why I Now Relish & Dread International Breaks in Equal Measure

There was something incredibly depressed about seeing Steven Gerrard refer to Cristiano Ronaldo as the ‘GOAT’ in a recent video that was posted to social media. The former Liverpool captain flirted with a move to Chelsea twice during his playing career, but the fact that he remained at Anfield meant that I always secretly harboured a belief that he was willing to put some things above money. When he began his managerial career, I think most of us were desperately hoping that he’d be a roaring success and position himself as Jürgen Klopp’s natural successor. When he went to Rangers, I turned a blind eye to the club’s Loyalist tendencies and laughed with everyone else to his reaction to a picture of the Queen in the dressing room. I was quick to defend his success in Scotland, given the speed with which people usually dismiss success when it comes north of the border, but there was no denying that he failed at Aston Villa. That was a nail in the coffin of any pretensions he might have had about becoming Liverpool manager.

Then he made the move to Saudi Arabia. From a footballing point of view, it was a decision that seemed to add the final nail to his coffin, given the extent to which succeeding there would prove nothing. It is also extremely difficult to stomach seeing someone like Gerrard willing to take even more money that he doesn’t need in order to help sportswash the reputation of a country that oppresses LGBTQ+ people, treats women as second class citizens and led what effectively amounts to a genocide in Yemen. For him to take that to the next level by praising Cristiano Ronaldo adds salt to the wound. If you criticise Saudi Arabia on social media you get accused of racism, as has happened to me more than once. It is not racist to want your heroes to live up to your expectations, which Gerrard most definitely hasn’t done. It almost feels as though he knows he isn’t going to be Liverpool manager so he’s just happy to burn everything down as he makes himself richer than most people can over hope to be.

I Can Stop Thinking About Football

When an international break rolls around, I am able to stop thinking about football almost entirely. Whilst my Twitter feed is mostly made up of people that I follow because of Liverpool and I do use the social media platform every day, but I find myself able to compartmentalise and not allow it to take up my every waking thought. I have got much better at not allowing the football to dominate my thoughts during the season proper. It certainly used to be the case that a bad result would hang over my for days, spoiling my mood and being difficult to shake off. Whether I care less nowadays because I’m older or because my diagnosis of relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis means that I feel a lot more detached from pretty much everything is a difficult one to pin point. What I do know, though, is that when it is the international break I pretty much entirely switch off from football. Don’t get me wrong, I’d much rather it wasn’t happening and I could’ve watched Liverpool this weekend, but I cope ok without it.

I genuinely don’t know whether this is a good way to be and I should celebrate it, or whether it is a sign that I’m falling out of love with football more and more. Players that I loved and respected like Sadio Mané, Roberto Firmino and Jordan Henderson moving to play in Saudi Arabia aren’t helping my love of the game, whilst sports-washing regimes owning football clubs and seemingly getting away with financial doping also doesn’t help. Ultimately, though, I care about the Reds when matches are being played but can happily switch off when it is a load of pointless internationals that I couldn’t care less about. I boycotted the World Cup when it was hosted by Qatar, genuinely enjoying the time that I had to myself without needing to be concerned about football fixtures or how the Reds were getting on. It helped me realise that, should I need to, I’d be able to walk away from the game without too much issue, as sad as that would be.

I Still Worry About Injuries

As much as an international break allows me to stop thinking about football, the one thing that does pop into my head unbidden on numerous occasions is the possibility of players picking up an injury. It always seems as though at least one Liverpool player gets a bad injury during each international break, as proven by Andy Robertson currently being out because of one that he got whilst playing for Scotland. The reality of being a good footballing side is that many of our players will be called up to represent their countries. This means that they’ll be under the control of different managers, medical staff and fitness personnel, to say nothing of having to play more minutes that they could doubtless do without. Taking part in games that are largely meaningless, there is no doubt more of a chance that they’ll pick up an injury before returning to the AXA Training Centre.

Any time I do logon to social media, I fear that there will be a report about how one of our key players has picked up a knock. There are plenty such statements about Manchester City players doing the rounds, but if you believe any of them then I’ve got an invisible car that you might want to buy. Jürgen Klopp is too honest by far as a manager, not willing to do what the likes of Manchester United did for years under Alex Ferguson and persuade his most important players not to go on international duty if there was a big game coming up. For Liverpool, the match against Pep Guardiola’s men that is first up after the international break couldn’t be bigger and it will be tough enough without players missing it through an injury playing in a game that they definitely could’ve missed without any concerns. That is doubtless a big fear of most Liverpool supporters so I know I’m not alone in worrying about it, but it is one of the only things that pierces my otherwise peaceful mind during the international break.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *